Thursday, June 30, 2011

Remember Them

"Does God judge the apparent foolishness of a particular Christian witness and the absence of immediate, tangible fruit?  Or does He look at our intent, our heart, our desire to follow Jesus' mandate in the great commission?"

The words of Tom White, Director of The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), in the July newsletter brought conviction upon me as I read about the heroes I so often forget.   I say "heroes" because that's exactly what our brothers and sisters are who face persecution in ways that most of us in the west are unable to understand or comprehend.  It's not enough to just read about them once a month.  They must be remembered and the images of their faces and their stories burned upon our hearts with a scorching iron as a constant reminder that "there, but for the grace of God, go I."

Many churches in the United States refuse to stand with organizations like VOM who choose to enter the spiritual battle against the dark forces that hold believers in chains.   They look upon them as violators of the laws of the states in which these people reside, preferring instead to remain neutral in order to keep what they consider a peaceful relationship with the heads of these oppressive nations.   They choose to forget the words of our LORD Jesus Christ when He sent His disciples out to carry His message of salvation to a world lost in sin and the warnings He gave them that persecution would most certainly come upon them.

"Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues,  and you will be dragged before governors and kings for My sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles..."  (Matthew 10:16-18)

Often, the restrictive or hostile nations allow certain denominations to remain, mainly because of the compromise these churches maintain with them.  To me, it becomes obvious they have little regard for the command they've been given by Christ to make disciples of all nations.  Instead, they align themselves with those who oppress the very people whom they are sent to minister unto and forsake the Gospel.  Even more obvious is their refusal to heed the LORD'S admonition regarding what His purpose was in sending them out and what He expects from His followers:

"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.  Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.  And whoever does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."  (Matthew 10:34-39)

The people we read about in VOM's newsletters are living the LORD'S words and the sting of the "sword."  And they are "worthy," not only in the context of Christ's words, but also  "worthy" of our recognition.  Their understanding of this passage in Scripture is a brutal reality to them as they are forced from their homes and possessions, their jobs, their villages and towns, and the pain they feel as their families and friends turn their hatred of Jesus upon them.  Many are left with nothing but the clothes on their backs and the faith that sustains them.  Far too many suffer physically, often by the hands of their own family.  And a multitude have died horrible deaths because of their refusal to deny Him.

You may call them "foolish" if you believe they are.  You can disagree with their willingness to violate the man-made religious laws of their nations and condemn them for doing so.  You can sit back in complacency, apathy, and condemnation, preferring to be obedient to your own  selfish dictates.  Or you can stand with them in solidarity and faithfulness to Jesus Christ.  You can pray that their tireless work for the LORD will bear "immediate, tangible fruit" that will bring honor and glory to Him.

When the time comes for God's faithful to receive their reward, whose do you think will be greater?  You by your refusal to stand with and defend the persecuted church?  Or will it be those who are daily taking up their cross, in spite of what they may suffer, and are fulfilling the Great Commission as mandated by the LORD?  Those who fight against the persecuted church through compromise with the enemy do nothing more than bring increased persecution.  The cost to believers in these nations is great.  But what is even greater is the cost brought about by those who stand in opposition to the persecuted.  They have inflicted great damage upon the LORD and His kingdom through their ignorance and blatant refusal to make disciples by fearlessly following their example.

"For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."  (Mark 8:38) 

I pray the same conviction I felt from my failure to always remember will also become yours.  Not just when you're reminded on occasion, or once a month from VOM's newsletter, but always.  Our brothers and sisters in hostile and restricted nations are asking from us the same thing Paul asked the Ephesians:

"Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should."  (Ephesians 6:19-20)

May the "heroes" who "fearlessly" stand for Jesus Christ remain faithful and obedient in the face of their oppressors.  And may they remember the words of encouragement from the LORD when they do:

"So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.  And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.  Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.  So everyone who acknowledges Me before men, I also will acknowledge before My Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies Me before men, I also will deny before My Father who is in heaven."   (Matthew 10:26-33)

And may we, their brothers and sisters around the world, remember them in prayer and help bear the burden of their cross for our LORD Jesus' sake, and for His eternal kingdom.

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